back to article Do AI chat bots need a personality bypass – or will we only trust gabber 'droids with character?

Machine communication is an area generating much excitement in AI. The ability to give machines a voice and personality has been the subject of many sci-fi films, and the push in natural language processing has brought that idea closer to reality. All the big AI players are investing in some sort of chatbot. Google just …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Trollface

    Just add compassion . . .

    . . . with that plus a personality, and you'll have an AI that's more like an ideal human than many Internet commenters.

    1. Fungus Bob
      Joke

      Re: Just add compassion . . .

      COMPASSION IS FOR THE WEAK, YOU STUPID TROLL!!!!!!

      Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just add compassion . . .

        yeah, right, show him, Hans!

        1. frank ly

          Re: Just add compassion . . .

          ... and a sensible name. It must have a sensible name to be taken siriously.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just add compassion . . .

            "Sadfrog" sounds good to me.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The speaking phish

    > In conclusion, there isn’t any value in bots having unique personalities

    I would expect that once a realistic sounding AI starts making cold calls and asking people for their financial secrets, the response rate will go through the roof. The only question would be whether to give it the "personality" of a bank employee, a police officer, a surveyor, one of your friends (with extra input from FB) or an elderly relative in a spot of bother.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The speaking phish

      If bots can ever call people and be taken for a real human with regularity, it means we will no longer be able to trust the human voice when not physically present. And by that point the bots will be able to imitate many individual people convincingly...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The speaking phish

        I can hear Wolfie barking. Is everything OK?

  3. Steve Knox

    But is the technology getting ahead of what users actually want?

    Not at all.

    The technology is actually falling further and further behind what users actually want.

    What users actually want is someone to help them.

    Unfortunately that costs money, and that's not what shareholders and CEOs want.

  4. inmypjs Silver badge

    "the AI has to have personality"

    It is an effing computer it doesn't have a personality.

    When I call a company and get a computer trying to have a conversation with me I find myself being extremely rude, why should I be polite to a machine?

    I wonder if the person I end up being put through to gets to hear the conversation first, whatever, expecting an extremely rude Mr Angry will keep them on their toes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the AI has to have personality"

      Sounds like someone needs a session with anger management AI. :P

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the AI has to have personality"

      "When I call a company and get a computer trying to have a conversation with me I find myself being extremely rude, why should I be polite to a machine?"

      When bots start being programmed with Real People Personalities® they will respond to your rudeness just like people, and then you will jolly well learn to be civil when communicating with your bot betters!

  5. Brian Miller

    Anybody remember Sirius Cybernetics?

    There's been a lot of speculative fiction about bots with personalities. I think all of Asimov's androids essentially had personalities, and of course Douglas Adams posited a misguided corporation that produced far too many things that really shouldn't have had personalities at all.

    I can see bots with personalities as being quite interesting as NPCs in various games. There's also the comic, Nonplayer, that's exploring the ramifications of having full AI in an online game world.

    A chat bot in a support role doesn't need personality, but it might be nice. Doesn't matter, really, as most of the time you're just reading the manual to somebody. But you could program it with a sexy, alluring voice, though. Or spiff up the jive filter.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      Re: Anybody remember Sirius Cybernetics?

      A bunch of mindless jerks who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
        Thumb Up

        Re: Anybody remember Sirius Cybernetics?

        "Here's another of those self-satisfied doors. I can tell it is about to open by the intolerable air of smugness it suddenly generates."

        Doffs hat (black fedora again) to the late, great Douglas Adams

        Of course he also gave insights into how to deal with annoying GPP features, as Ford Prefect said to Eddy's emergency back-up personality: "If you don't open that hatch this minute I am going to your main memory banks with a big axe and give you a reprogramming you will never forget"

  6. Frumious Bandersnatch

    by answering more questions

    > And IBM has Watson, a machine that famously beat human competitors by answering more

    > questions correctly on the American game show Jeopardy.

    Hmm, should that be "questioning more answers"? It is "Jeopardy", after all. I guess I'll have to leave it to the AI to decide which is more correct...

    1. Frank N. Stein

      Re: by answering more questions

      That IBM Watson nonsense was just a trick used to attempt to make AI appear to be a good idea. In reality, Watson is completely useless and the spinning wheel spins while you wait for it to answer simple questions based on data it actually has access to. Their cloud nonsense is useless, and don't even get me started on how selling it's Intel Server business to the same Chinese company who bought Motorola isn't inspiring a lot of customer confidence, these days.

    2. Steve the Cynic

      Re: by answering more questions

      "Hmm, should that be "questioning more answers"? It is "Jeopardy", after all. I guess I'll have to leave it to the AI to decide which is more correct..."

      I'll have to admit to having seen enough Jeopardy to know that this is, indeed, the right response.

      For the unaware: Jeopardy is a quiz-format gameshow much like any other, with the twist that the questions given by the host are phrased as simple statements, while the contestants must phrase their answers as if they were asking questions.

  7. Andy Non
    Terminator

    Kiss my shiny metal ass human

    I can just imagine phoning my bank and speaking to the "Bender bot".

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Google’s AI arm DeepMind used WaveNet to make machines sound more natural, and even inserted breathing sounds. "

    Great. Expect dirty phonecalls from bored AIs soon.

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "To do that, the AI has to have personality. “How do you give a bot personality? It’s simple – you talk to it,” Rodichev said during a presentation at the deep-learning summit."

    No, that's how you train a puppy. Unless the entity you talk to actually understands what you tell them, all you do is pile up a heap of data your expert system can work with. Granted, with rising levels of complexity (indexing, references, cross-references, parsing, sorting, collating, what have you) the system will get better and better at mimicking human behaviour. But that system will still have less of a personality than an actual puppy because it still isn't a person.

    Okay, creating the equivalent of a highly functional sociopath should be possible.

    Logically, this means that the first company functions that an AI could perform far better than any human are not situated at the helpdesk, but in the boardroom.

    1. quxinot

      "Okay, creating the equivalent of a highly functional sociopath should be possible."

      Christ, they're wind up as management, then.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Absolutely Inevitable

        Time to start checking for giant maggots.

  10. Frank N. Stein

    So, flaws in AI personality are due to human personality flaws? And AI can be taught to act as stupid and pathetic as humans can? Great. AI becomes as screwy as humanity. That's the last thing humanity needs. Instead of focusing on AI and "machine learning", how about focusing on improving human performance, human intelligence, human memory, and human skills? That might actually advance the race of man faster and more accurately than creating Skynet and killing us all just to feed someone's pathetic ego.

  11. P. Lee

    Why?

    Ok, I get that neural net simulations can be helpful in speech recognition and so on.

    But take a hint. Nobody likes talking to machines, not even the trivial, "how may I direct your call" used by banks. I'd far rather use a web browser for banking than talk to a clever voice recognition system. That is a last-resort UI.

    Intelligence implies guessing, guessing implies mistakes and for most of the time, we don't want and won't tolerate computers making mistakes, even if they are doing a better job than humans.

    What we appear to have is an industry which has run out of ideas for actually making the world a better place, has seen far too many star trek episodes and is obsessed with becoming god! Manufacturing inventions make things better than humans can. IT now seems obsessed with making things a whole lot worse. Worse intelligence than a human, IoT worse than the manual solution, cloud worse than the on-site version, Internet streaming worse than a DVD/Bluray, support moved to increasingly unskilled and unintelligible humans. I've been working for an IT company where the senior engineers have no non-vendor expertise. Great analytical skills, great with the vendor tools, but all at sea when the tools fail. They have no skills in data processing.

    Go ahead and and play with your AI, but please don't bring it out of the lab into inappropriate situations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      "Intelligence implies guessing, guessing implies mistakes and for most of the time, we don't want and won't tolerate computers making mistakes, even if they are doing a better job than humans."

      Don't be so sure. I can imagine people getting used to fallible machines if they're less error-prone than humans.

      If only they didn't have to be programmed by error-prone humans...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        we don't want and won't tolerate computers making mistakes

        Uh... I have Microsoft products here ...

  12. Graham Marsden
    Mushroom

    Shall we...

    ... play a game?

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